Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting, March 10th, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address several thousand supporters from the Rehavam Ze’evi Lookout Point atop the Mount of Olives and facing Jerusalem’s Old City walls in a rally Sunday night which will be the Likud Party’s final campaign event before Tuesday’s general election.
Originally Likud had planned to hold a multi-party right-wing demonstration but other parties on the right declined to join the proposed mega-event. Without their involvement, the event is now being touted as “Protecting the Land of Israel, strengthening Netanyahu.”
Rabbi Rafi Peretz and MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP), as well as New Right leaders Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, all turned down the offer to address the rally or to participate in any other way, including funding.
Sources in both parties pointed to the massive right-wing show of force ahead of the 2015 election, in which tens of thousands supporters filled Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. Netanyahu gave a speech, standing behind bulletproof glass, vowing to keep Jerusalem united. Bennett memorably took out a guitar and led the crowd in singing “Jerusalem of Gold.”
Days later, the Likud received 30 seats and its right-wing satellite parties shrank significantly. New Right and URP do not want to repeat that result.
However, a spokesman for the New Right denied a report that the party has a negative campaign against Netanyahu reserved for the last few days before Tuesday’s vote, in case the Likud starts targeting other parties’ voters.
Sunday’s Likud event will be held at the Mount of Olives, facing the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, after it was moved from the more central Paris Square near the Prime Minister’s Residence, due to traffic and security issues.
However, the neighborhood surrounding the Mount of Olives is predominately Palestinian, and has its own security challenges.
In addition, the Likud will not be able to bring in the number of people who came to the 2015 rally, an estimated 25,000.
Jeff Daube of the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeitim (the Mount of Olives) said that while concerts have been held at the Rehavam Ze’evi Lookout Point before, the site has a maximum capacity for 2,000 people.